Holarctic Marmots as a factor of Biodiversity.
Rumiantsev V.Yu;, Nikol'skii A.A. & Brandler O.V. eds.,
Abstracts, 3d Conference on Marmots (Cheboksary, Russia, 25-30 August 1997),
Moscow ABF 1997, 216p.


M.-C. Bel*, J.L. Clement**, J. Coulon*

* Laboratoire de Biologie des Populations d'Altitude - Villeurbanne Cedex
** CNRS - LNB "Communication Chimique" - Marseille Cedex, France

Scent marking by cheek-rubbing in the Alpine marmot was investigated from 1991 to 1996, in order to know more about the functional meaning of such a behaviour, and to understand the mecanisms underlying the chemical communication in this species. First, field observations of animals individually marked were performed. Results showed that reproductive adult territorial residents scent mark their home range especially on main burrow systems, and near boundaries as well. Scent marking seems therefore to be greatly involved in the territorial defence. In a second part, our objectives were to find some reliable behaviours, performed by resident marmots, in response to foreign scent marks. Results indicated that the intensity of overmarking, as well as the time of sniffing were significant, and could form the bioassay. Then, using this response-guided strategy, we tested fractions of the marking substance in order to isolate the semiochemicals involved in the chemical communication. Field experiments showed that the biologically active fraction consisted in the total volatile fraction issued from the secretions of the orbital gland. The next step of the study was to identify the molecules entering the composition of this fraction : more than 30 compounds were detected in each individual sample. Thus, the hypothesis of the molecular complexity of semiochemicals, already reported in other mammal species, is strenghtened. Quantitative and qualitative variability of chemical composition among individual samples is evaluated, and the link between this variability and social or physiological factors is discussed.

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